Category Archives: Dear Ethan

Family Photography: Grow Old With Me

Moments. The biggest ones that make your heart leap. The most insignificant ones that escape your consciousness. The ones when you laugh till your belly hurts. The ones that you’d rather others not know about. There are, too, the quiet ones when time stands still, and those pauses that seem to take far too long to skip. They make up our lives, our passage here in the world we know, and they make more difference, in the lives of the people who love you, than you think they do.

When I was on the cusp of my teens through to my twenties, I hated being photographed. I didn’t know how to smile for the camera and I certainly didn’t like the way I looked. All that changed when I started dating the love of my life. Suddenly, I was desperate to record every waking moment spent with M, determined not to let those times slip away because…really, I have the memory of a goldfish and I don’t want to forget the moments that we share. Never mind the huge cystic pimple on my nose when I headed to London to visit him, never mind the crooked teeth, I just wanted to capture as many smiles (awkward ones too) as possible.

When I moved to London, I dabbled in very (very) amateur photography. It started with food photography and styling, and then I tried my hand at taking travel shots. M often rolled his eyes at me for trying to take photographs of him too, but hey, good or bad, we now have tonnes of memories to fill the album with.

Now that we have children, I make it a point to do a family photoshoot once a year, much to the horror of M initially. “A few hundred bucks spent on photos?!” That’s what he used to say until he saw the coffee table albums I put together and realised how precious it was to be able to thumb through beautifully captured moments of the kids growing up and of our family just hanging out together. It has come to a point where he goes, “Let’s get A (our usual family photographer) to take our photographs again this year!” Because you see, sometimes when life gets tough and discouraging, M and I often snuggle up in bed at night to look at our family photos, and that is all it takes to get us back up on our feet again.

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Not all photoshoots are created equal though. I had one where the photographer physically moved our body parts (can I just say we were absolutely stiff and it was hard for the photog to move us too) so that we looked perfect for the shot; while that works for people who aren’t as stiff and are more intuitive at posing for photographs (I am absolutely envious of people who know how to work the camera), M and I just end up looking and feeling ridiculous and self-conscious because we aren’t naturals in front of the camera.

When Gideon from Grow Old With Me approached us to do a photoshoot, the first thing I did was to check out his portfolio to make sure that our styles align. As we aren’t good in front of the camera, we needed a photographer who can coax genuine emotions out of us and that’s what I saw in his work with other families. Eyes squeezed shut amidst hearty laughs, flailing arms that end in the biggest hugs, thoughtful, quiet exchanges, knowing smiles. And that’s exactly what we got out of the hour we had with Gideon.

He made an effort to get to know us, what we do, who we are, how we parent; he even knows what makes us joyful and what makes us tick. My kids usually take pretty long to warm up to people but they took to Gideon very quickly. He has a way with children, getting to their eye levels, asking questions and playing games with them; that is pretty much how he worked his magic to get Faith and Ethan to be at ease and just hang out as they usually do with us. It didn’t matter if two cameras were clicking away. The entire session was easy, comfortable and it felt like we were catching up with an old friend. Many shots were taken while we were still chatting away with Gideon, some were taken in the midst of a guided conversation we had with the kids, and others were captured when we were just having a grand ol’ time being outdoors. Sure, the children did whine a little because of the heat, but that’s to be expected anyway.

The best thing about Gideon is he wants to be there. He shared that Grow Old With Me came about because it was a natural progression to grow with the newlyweds that he has photographed, as they begin their journeys in parenthood. He recognises the ups and downs of parenthood, and sees each photoshoot as an opportunity for the family to bond. It is this that drives him to capture the moments that might have otherwise gone unnoticed in our daily lives, and I am thankful that he shared this ethos with us. Our exact sentiments, really.

We really like how the photos turned out; in fact, I just spent two hours grinning like a goofball while reliving the moments we shared that day (someone’s got to do the hard work of picking out photos to put up on the blog, there are too many good ones!). I shall leave the photos with you (it’s a slideshow and may take a while to load) and don’t forget to check out the promotion below!

Promotion:

I heard from Gideon that Grow Old With Me is looking to plan some activities that would help parents better capture moments with their children, and I honestly can’t wait to see how that pans out. While that is still work in progress, if you are looking to do a family photoshoot, you might be glad to know that Grow Old With Me is offering a 20% discount on the hour-long ‘The Family Bonding’ package (usually priced at $328), which which suits a family of 6 people (max). All photos will be processed and returned in high resolution (digital format) within a week. It’s a pretty amazing deal, if you ask me, so hurry and book a slot with Grow Old With Me! The promotional code GOWM is valid until the end of April 2017.

Like Grow Old With Me on Facebook and stay updated on Instagram over @growoldwithmesg as well! 

Mine

I nursed my little boy for the last time on 27 February 2017. There were no tears from the 23-month-old the next day, but boy, did Mama weep.

It all started a few weeks before that, when the husband and I felt that he could do away with the morning and pre-nap feeds as I noticed he was merely comfort-sucking and not actually taking in any milk. Those feeds were, surprisingly, incredibly easy to wean off. All I had to do was plonk him on my lap in the mornings and tell him that there was no need for Mama’s milk, and he would happily run off to the living room to rummage through his toys. For naps, I used to lie down beside him on my bed and have him feed until he drifted off to sleep, but when it came to weaning the pre-nap feed, I told him that he could hug me instead and we could fall asleep together, and he happily did just that too. It all seemed too easy.

I didn’t think too much of weaning E off those two feeds, because I still had the opportunity to nurse him at bedtime and I didn’t really mind doing that except for the fact that he was due to start school soon; from our experience, we reckoned it was just better to at least plan to wean him off completely before he embarked on the next phase in life. I didn’t have a date or plan in mind, in part due to my lack of experience in actively weaning a child (F weaned herself off the final morning feed at 21 months old, she simply ran into our bedroom while we were holidaying in Hanoi and watched cartoons before breakfast was served) and also my reluctance to let go of my baby, who seemed to have sprouted overnight, far quicker than what Mama’s heart could cope with.

I don’t know what prompted me to start weaning E off the bedtime feed on the last day of February. M was working late that evening, and I had just cleaned the kids up after getting them fed at dinner. Before I knew it, I whipped out the bedtime story (Time For Bed by Mem Fox)  that I have been reading to F for years and told E that Mama’s milk was ‘spoilt’, that we could read a book instead and I would cuddle him as he falls asleep, and he…said, “Okay!” He was clearly ready. I wasn’t, and I still don’t know what possessed me to wean him off before I was done.

This went on for a few nights and that…was it. No tears, no drama, just my boy reading (what is now) his favourite book whilst sitting on my lap, and me cuddling him to sleep. A week after the final feed, E even said this a few times while we were in the car on the way to F’s school, “No more Mama milk. Spoil spoil. Read book, okay? Sleep sleep.”

Oh, how my heart broke.

Breastfeeding had been a part of my life for the past five years. It’s almost all I know about feeding a child. You see, both my children refused the bottle and I latched them on for 99.98% of their milk feeds (0.2% being the bottle feeds which failed spectacularly). I had felt trapped at first. I couldn’t go anywhere without them. I barely slept because no one else could bottle-feed them. If I went anywhere without them, it was for my annual haircut, and even then, I was anxious the whole time and sped home just to be back in time for the next feed. Both F and E had painful reflux too, E being the one who suffered from a more severe form than F did. E, especially, screamed hysterically and arched whenever I tried to feed him; for two months, I thought he hated me. Every feed had me wrestling him (not kidding) until I perspired and both of us ended in tears. He was underweight (completely off the chart, not even on the lowest percentile) and yet, was pained by nursing. I was devastated and exhausted and at my wit’s end as to how I should help him put on weight without causing him pain. It was cruel and punishing to go through this, even as I fended off naysayers who had much to say about my breastfeeding. Our paediatrician then put him on MUPS and much too slowly, breastfeeding grew to be a mildly better experience. But it was too late, breastfeeding had scarred me physically and emotionally. I was bone-tired, resentful, and I felt unattractive, having to bear witness to what pregnancy and motherhood had done to my body over the past five years.

Yet, I didn’t want to stop nursing my children. As much as I felt tied down, it was the one way I knew how to mother. If I couldn’t meet their other needs, I could still nurse them. If nothing else went right in motherhood, there was nursing to count on. And there were plenty of occasions when they smiled and cooed and played peekaboo with me as they nursed. Breastfeeding, as gruelling as it was, forged unbreakable bonds between my children and me, and weaning felt like some sort of an un-welcomed rite of passage.

They are growing up much too quickly for me to play catch-up. I am losing them.

For both F and E, I checked on my supply each time I was in the shower after they weaned. It took more than a month before my supply dried up for F. It took two weeks in E’s case. I cried in the shower that evening. We were holidaying in Bali, and there I was, standing in the shower,  relieved (and feeling guilty at the relief) that I need not sacrifice my body that way again just to keep my children alive, mourning every single night when I had the opportunity to hold them close to me and comfort them, wincing as I tried to forget the hurtful remarks that people had hurled at me for breastfeeding my children, trying desperately to recall that twinkle in my baby’s eye as he or she nursed, stroking my fingers absent-mindedly as I struggled to remember how they clung onto my index finger with their tiny, tiny hands. Five years went much too quickly, but the days were so very long and at times, painful indeed.

A month has since passed and E has cheekily asked for Mama’s milk on a few occasions. Sometimes, I catch myself lifting up my top when I hold E in my arms as I put him to bed, only to stop halfway and realise that I have nothing left to give. But I guess we still have cuddles. I will always have cuddles, so long as they let me.

And when that is no longer, the memories are forever mine to keep.

 Photography: Grow Old With Me

Prison Break 

4.20am

I woke up to Ethan’s soft cries and thought he needed to nurse again. After all, he has been waking up in the middle of the night for the past two weeks, and I thought this was just like any other night.

As I approached his room and groped for the handle to the door, I was puzzled by the amplitude of his cries.

Why does he sound so loud when his cries sound so muffled on the monitor? He sounds like he is…just behind the door?! But it can’t be, right…?!

I opened the door gingerly and peeped. Wasn’t sure why I did that because I did tell myself that I was just sleep-deprived and that I was just thinking too much. And lo and behold, two very large, round eyes that were brimming with tears were staring back at me in complete darkness.

OMFG HE GOT OUT OF THE COT AND HE *IS* BEHIND THE DOOR!!!!

!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!

I yelled for M because I couldn’t contain that leaping (in a bad way) heart of mine. How in the world….how did he…he is only 16 months old…but the base is pretty low on the cot…Faith never did…he can’t even walk consistently yet…it’s pitch-black in here with the black-out blinds and drapes…how did he…OMG MY SON PRISON BREAK LEH WHAT THE!!!

M was in disbelief, and he semi-shouted, “Is he hurt? Is his head okay? CHECK HIM NAO.” Then he ran outside with the torch he grabbed from E’s room and came running back after a few seconds, muttering that we have to lower the cot first thing in the morning. (M clarified that he went out of the room because he thought there might be an off-chance that someone broke into our home and wanted to kidnap E, and because E cried, the badass left him sitting behind the door. Say whutt?!)

F, who was sleeping in our bed, stumbled into E’s room, rubbed her eyes and was utterly confused, “What happened to didi?”

I wish I knew what happened!

Needless to say, I slept with one eye open after I put E back to bed. I Googled a million videos of babies doing the great escape and couldn’t believe that my baby, the one with the manja longan eyes, is as fearless as these Youtube babies.

So. We lowered the cot to the bottommost rung, even though it was already on the second lowest adjustment. We plonked the very large playmat right under. We removed all dangerous objects, even knobs on drawers, drilled the chest to the wall, and hung up all loose blind and curtain cords, waaaaay out of (even my) reach. The sockets are all sealed, wires all kept, and we are going to monitor E’s bedtime shenanigans for a while. He is still too young to be transited to a floor mattress, so let’s hope these changes contain him until he is ready to sleep in a big boy’s bed like his sister did at 29 months.
Doodle courtesy of Gong Gong, who calls him Ninja Kid. 

Dear Ethan: And You Are One

Dear Ethan,

You…are one. Just like that. If I thought time had flown by with your sister growing up so quickly, then ‘fleeting’ is just about the right word to describe your first year.

A little more than a year ago, you came into our lives, achingly tiny and definitely quieter than your sister was at your age. As I cradled you in my arms after you slipped out, I couldn’t believe that you were mine, that you were finally here, even if I was deathly afraid of becoming a mother of two. Back then, I knew that labour, whilst painful, would be easy because it is transient, but parenting…that’s an entirely different matter altogether; what I do today, tomorrow and forever more will influence the both of you, and even at this point, three and a half years after becoming a mother, I am not sure if I can say that I have done a decent job of raising you two. I…can only try.

That night, the first night you were brought to my ward whilst Papa was fast asleep on the makeshift bed, I drew up my legs and had you recline on my thighs. You were sleeping soundly and made the cutest gurgles as you fluidly but slowly moved your head around, as if you were still in my watery womb. I took a good look at you and marvelled at how every bit of you is a little bit of us, and by us, I mean Papa, your sister and me. I whispered I love you, and asked  you to forgive me if I should ever let you down, because the days ahead would be tough. From the day I found out I was pregnant with you, I knew that I would not be able to have as much time alone with you as I did with your sister, and that guilt has faithfully shadowed me to this day. I suppose that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the guilt, whilst crippling at times, mostly motivated me to be more of a mother than I already was to the both of you.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope. Of course, I didn’t. Do I pay more attention to your sister because you wouldn’t remember a thing? Or do I pay more attention to you because you need me to survive and that it is only fair that I spend one-on-one time with you, having had 2 years and 7 months of alone-time with your sister? I’d be honest with you, my son, it has been a little bit of this and a little bit of that to get us through to this day, and by God’s grace, things fell into place. I crumbled…more times than I care to admit, whilst trying to cope with chores, caregiving, postnatal depression and a severe lack of sleep. I flared up much too often, I cried so hard I thought I wouldn’t stop, and I…was truly lost. But God went ahead of me and gave me two children who would make our family of four work when I fell short. Your sister has never ever been jealous of you, not for a second; she, somehow, set aside her own needs and wants, and grew up overnight to be a true-blue jiejie to you. And you…you wait in the wings for me. You always do. I should have known, from your gentle cries back when you came into this world, that you would be this way.

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You wait. I can see that you yearn to be with me through those piercing eyes, and I know that you try your best to hold off the crying until your tiny being can’t cope any longer. Of course, as you grow older, you make your demands known a little louder than you used to, but you wait with great patience that I have yet to see in a child your age. “Mama? Mama? Mama?” You would go on umpteen times, rather gently so in a hopeful manner, until I get a breather from what/who I am busy with and call out cheerfully, “Yes, Ethan?” You would then break into the biggest toothy grin, one that seizes my heart, with your sparkly eyes disappearing into happy commas on your ‘meatball’ face and that cute wrinkle on your nose. I wish I could respond more promptly, Ethan, and God knows that I try. But maybe, I have yet to try my best, and I am deeply sorry for making you wait much too often. I promise to try harder.

To be honest, I had been concerned that I wasn’t interacting with you sufficiently in the past year. Whilst you are a lot more active (and infinitely more fearless!) than your sister was at your age, there were times when I thought you were a lot less verbal than she was. I thought that it was because I didn’t read or sing or talk as often to you but lately, you have been yakking away so much that I struggle to keep you quiet, so I guess my concerns of shortchanging you are unfounded! We skipped all the baby talk, as with your sister, and just as I thought I should have gone down the ‘mum mum’ (baby talk for eat) or ‘xu xu’ (baby talk for pee) route, you demonstrate a sudden understanding of what we have been saying to you. We would ask, “Do you want to eat orange?” You then scan the dining table until you spot ’em slices of oranges tucked away in a box, and you do that comma-eyes-toothy-grin-wrinkled-nose thing to mark your way of saying yes. You have yet to learn how to say ‘more’ but you indicate that you want more of something by pointing with your stubby little index finger and sounding, “Mmm?!” Aside from Papa and Mama, you have also learnt to address your sister (Daa Daahhhhkr), name the ball (BAW), light (wight!), clock (awh!) amongst others, all in a matter of one to two weeks! The one thing that you are so very resistant to learning is taking no for an answer. You would wriggle out of ANY seatbelt on all types of high chairs we have put you in, stand up and climb onto the dining table, and be purposely oblivious to calls of stern disapproval. You would dive headfirst from the bed, only to be caught in the nick of time by us, and meet our pleading ‘No’ with a death stare. ‘No’s do not work on your repeated attempts to pull off plugs and yank off wires, and we know you are choosing not to listen to us because of your defiant, pursed lips and cold eyes as you do what must not be done. At times, you even scream at us, as if to rebel against us, when we are stern with you. Oh, the thrills of making peace with a toddler who doesn’t.ever.stop and must lay hands on everything he sees. Having said that, it’s still fun being able to interact with you as you begin to understand more of our world, because you see, Mama sees the world through your eyes when we do that and it’s l i k e m a g i c.

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Of course, my heart aches each time I realise how much you have grown. I took a photo of you for every milestone you made, and for every week that has gone by since you were born, and I can’t help but wonder if this is the last of the first. You know, the first of everything that marks a baby’s life. I am pretty sure that I have no room left in my heart for another child, and that any traits required of a mother to do this gig will be left wanting in me because I know that I am incapable of caring for the two of you properly, let alone three. As your firsts are likely my lasts, I try to hold onto whatever moments I have with you, relish in the joy and tears that come with being your mother, and remember every part of you that makes you a baby, less of a baby and more of a toddler, but perhaps I am old and befuddled, most things…everything is slipping away from me like sand through desperately clenched fingers, and the only thing I have left is not the past, but your here-and-now with me.

So here and now, it is.

I will hold you for as long as you would let me. I will smother your meatball cheeks with wet, slobbery kisses for as long as you do not push me away. I will call out cheerfully, “Yes, Ethan?” for as long as you need me, even when you find me a nag. And I will love you till the end of time, even if you stop loving me. Forgive me if I am not a perfect mother, my son, it is true that I will never be one. But I…will be the one who loves you the most, and I hope I will, more often than not, be more than enough for you.

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Love always,

Mama

Ethan’s Birth Story 

TALK ABOUT LATE.

This post must have shrivelled up in the draft folder, almost a year after Ethan was born, and nothing kicks my arse into penning this properly AND publishing it, like his first birthday approaching at the end of this week. EEEPS.

(Son, please don’t take this the wrong way; Mama has been far too busy cuddling you to even pay much attention to this space anymore. Please don’t ever think that the glaring absence of your birth story over here means that Mama loves you any less.)

SO. When I was about to pop Faith out of my hoo-ha back in 2012, it was barely a brain-teaser. All I had to do was to show up, scream in pain and push. SIMPLES. Okay, maybe I packed and re-packed my hospital bag a little too often, and I freaked out about what labour might be like. But with Ethan, I went through a gazillion plans in my mind (along with another gazillion back-up plans) as the due date approached, as we had to make sure that Faith would be well taken care of, regardless of where, when and how labour kicked in. I had every route to my parents’ and to the hospital from possible locations of where I might be mapped out according to different times of the day, and briefed everyone (shy of barking instructions at the neighbour’s dog) on what to do with Faith when the time comes. Her well-being was all I could think about in the weeks leading up to the due date, as I had not spent a night away from her prior to giving birth to Ethan and I was nervous about how she might react…being away from me and all that.

Amidst rehearsing plans over and over during waking hours and in my sleep, a few nights before Ethan’s birth, I thought I was going into labour. I was 38 weeks along then. I had felt cramps in the lower back which grew into aching contractions that came around every three minutes and lasted 30-60 seconds each. They were painful enough for me to know that those were not Braxton-Hicks. This went on from when I picked Faith up from school at about 4pm until 9pm. Ethan was also strangely not moving at all during this period, and that freaked me out. After we put Faith to bed at about 8.30pm, we were pretty certain of getting my parents to stay over at ours whilst we headed to the hospital, when the contractions suddenly stopped at 9pm and E started cartwheeling in my uterus again. That was when I decided to just sleep it off, but I had diarrhoea instead and I was horrified that I couldn’t tell a bad tummy ache apart from labour. Anyhow, all of our bags, including Faith’s school and home things, were packed and we were ready to put the plans into action should I go into labour.

Two nights later, on the eve of the day that Ethan was born (also the day I was scheduled to go in for a CTG and VE), the contractions came back. They were similar in frequency and length to what I had experienced two days ago, and the episode lasted for about five hours again before calling it quits on me. E also barely moved until the contractions stopped. Once the episode was over, I had diarrhoea and by this time, I was extremely frustrated at myself for not recognising the signs properly. I mean, I SHOULD KNOW THIS, HAVING HAD ONE KID BEFORE AND SHAT SO MANY TIMES IN MY LIFE, SHOULDN’T I?! GEEZ.

All this time, I was hoping to labour naturally, even if it meant chaos would ensue in terms of making sure F was in good hands before we headed to the hospital. But, E had been small throughout gestation and Dr K was concerned about getting him out before the womb became too stressful an environment for him. After all, he had shown signs of stress and I had bled during the pregnancy. Dr K had mentioned a C-section by 38.5 weeks if he was still in breech (he turned a few days before that, thank God) or to induce labour if the amniotic fluid volume decreased and if his weight didn’t get up to a decent number. Getting cut up was something that I was very reluctant to go through owing to the slow recovery time (I wanted to bounce right back and be able to carry and cuddle both of my children after giving birth). I was also resistant to the idea of getting induced again this time round, as I was induced with F and the rapid escalation in highly intense contractions that didn’t pace well with the lack of cervical dilation, had me cave into getting the epidural. I was banging on a drug-free birth with E, and I know that I wouldn’t stand a chance of doing that if I were to be induced.

Morning came around (it was the eve of Good Friday), we stuck all of F’s bags in a corner of our house, dropped F at school and headed to the clinic at Mt Elizabeth with the hospital bag in tow. We didn’t get good news. Well, I didn’t get the news that I wanted. Dr K was certain that E would face unnecessary stress should he continue to bunk in, and strongly recommended for me to be induced. The amniotic fluid volume was thinning out and I experienced long hours of painful, frequent contractions in the days before. The discussion was peppered with lots of choked-up and feeble ‘but’s’ from me. M, however was supportive of what Dr K suggested, and somehow, I agreed to her plan even though it was killing me to say yes. Dr K sent me out for a big brunch and asked me to be admitted at 12.45pm, and I walked out of the clinic simmering with anger and disappointment.

M took me to Paragon to hunt for lunch options, and as we walked to PS Cafe, I broke down. Yes, I did a really ugly cry in public, and everyone who was early enough to do some shopping at Paragon that morning saw this pregnant lady bawling like a baby. I couldn’t accept that I was going to be induced, that I was going to be a mother-of-two when I was not mentally ready (though, on hindsight, one will NEVER be ready). I WAS GOING TO LABOUR NATURALLY AND GO FOR A DRUG-FREE BIRTH AT 40 WEEKS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, YOU TWO EVIL DOCTORS WHO ARE CONSPIRING AGAINST ME, AND YES, I MEAN YOU TOO, HUSBAND! I started going on and on (gesturing wildly, if I might add) about how Dr K must have suggested an induction because she didn’t want to come to work over the Easter weekend, about how no one respected my decision and what I wanted, and about how E wasn’t really under stress. M grew from being extremely patient and empathetic, to slightly mad when I got hysterical. He said that if I didn’t want to be induced, he would march us back to Dr K’s clinic and we would call it off. For some reason, I calmed down just enough for him to take me to PS Cafe, and as I bulldozed the fish and chips, I asked him why he agreed with Dr K and I listened intently as he explained his stance. He said that he could understand my concern as a parent and as a patient with a desired birth plan, but he also said that Dr K has decades of experience under her belt and that we, of all people, having been taken care of by her when we were expecting Faith, should know that she would never push for me to go for an induction just so she didn’t have to come in to work over the Easter weekend. As a doctor, he agreed that the signs (couldn’t remember all the jargon he blabbered on) pointed to the fact that it was better to get E out via natural birth (even if it is induced) than to end up in a emergency C-section if something went awry. Also, with an induction, we would  know exactly how, where and when to place F, and my parents need not be stressed with middle-of-the-night calls from us to help look after F. The instant he mentioned emergency C-section and F, I was sold. 12.45pm to the labour ward, it was then. Between the fish and chips and 12.45pm, M and I rang our parents to let them know that we were having Ethan that day, and my folks knew to pick F up from school and to care for her for a night as Dr K expected E to be out in the late evening.

12.45pm: We arrived at the labour ward. This time, I walked in instead of getting wheeled in. My ward was getting cleaned up by the nurses. Whilst we waited, I could see the charts of other labouring mothers blipping on the screens at the nurses’ station. The ward was unusually quiet. Why is no one moaning? 

1pm: The nurse finally had time to take my documents and admit me properly. The ward looked far too familiar. M was obviously a seasoned pro. He headed straight for the couch, unpacked our bags to unearth the necessary stuff  – camera, phone, charger, magazines – and made himself at home. I hopped onto the bed and played around with the buttons until I made myself comfortable.

2pm: Ethan was super active. There were minor contractions and I had a really bad tummy ache, so bad that I practically ran to the loo. I thought I had food poisoning (sorry if this is TMI) and when I was finished, the nurse came in to ask if I needed to be administered the Fleet enema. Well, let’s just say I cleared my bowels sufficiently for the week ahead, so I told her it wasn’t necessary. When the nurse left, I wondered if diarrhoea could be a sign of labour and Googled it. It turned out that it was, and I started to think that the 5-hour-long painful contractions plus episodes of diarrhoea I had in the days leading up to this point were my body’s way of preparing for labour after all! Mother Nature’s way of reducing the likelihood of mothers crapping while they push their babies out. How clever. And considerate for everyone who would be present at the birth.

2.20pm: Dr K swung by and did a VE. I was 2cm dilated. She broke my water bag and whaddaya know, E was under stress after all! There was meconium in the amniotic fluid. So the contractions, episodes of diarrhoea WERE signs of labour, signs that E was giving me to get him out! At this point, I was relieved and thankful that I heeded Dr K’s and M’s advice. And mildly embarrassed that I cried in public earlier that morning.

2.30pm: The contractions were getting stronger but they were very bearable. 2/10 on the pain scale.

3.20pm: I was given a low dose of syntocin to speed things up by artificially inducing strong contractions. Blood was taken from me as part of the procedure required of cord blood donation to SCBB. The contractions got to above 100 for a few, and I rated them 7/10 on the pain scale, but most contractions were small and irregular.

4.30pm: The midwife came in and upped the dose for syntocin. Having gone through an induced delivery before, I knew I was in for a rough ride and braced myself for the abrupt escalation in pain.

5.15pm: The contractions were unbearable. They were of near maximum amplitudes on the chart, and there were 3 to 4 of them every 5 minutes. This was worse than what I had experienced when giving birth to Faith and there was NO time for rest in between the strong contractions, but I held out and told M I wanted to try and wait until 5.45pm before deciding if I wanted an epidural.

5.30pm: The pain was truly excruciating by now, nothing like what I felt with F, and I cried partly because of the pain and partly because of what it meant.  I asked for a VE and on learning that I was only 3cm dilated, I knew I wouldn’t be able to withstand 3 to 4 maximal contractions every 5 minutes until I was 10cm dilated. With a heavy heart, I asked for an epidural.

6.10pm: The same anaesthetist who hooked me up to an epidural when I was giving birth to F came by again this time. The catheter insertion took much longer and the process was more uncomfortable this time. The contractions were so painful that I trembled. The midwife and anaesthetist had to hold me down to stop me from trembling and finally, the epidural was safely administered. The anaesthetist said that she gave me a very low dose of epidural to take the edge off, instead of numbing everything out. Before the epidural took effect, the midwife did a quick VE and I was already 5cm dilated. At this point, I was a little disappointed that I asked for an epidural, given that I dilated pretty quickly since the last VE. I thought I should have waited but the deed was done and I just had to live with my decision.

6.30pm: 6cm dilated and I felt a very strong urge to push. I was shivering from the epidural. I could still move my legs. Felt nauseated and I stopped drinking water even though I was parched. A catheter was inserted to empty my bladder as I was bed-bound.

6.45pm: 7cm dilated and I felt an even stronger urge to push. I could still move my legs and felt pain in my right bum as baby tried to make its way out. The midwife told me to try not to push, and man, was that a tall order!

7.10pm: I was 9cm dilated this time and if it was even possible at all, I felt an even stronger urge to push. The pain in my right bum was rather intense as baby tried to get out. The midwife had me practise pushing as she gowned up and prepared me for delivery. After a few attempts, I finally got past my fear of pooping and pushed properly. Chin down, bump up, it was!

7.15pm: Dr K arrived and I continued pushing properly as she gowned up and prepared for the final stage of delivery. I felt Ethan crowning, something that I hadn’t felt before with F as I was on a particularly lose dose of epidural this time. There was a burning sensation and I certainly felt like I was tearing apart when baby crowned and his shoulders went past. I was told to relax and to stop pushing once his shoulders were out.

7.20pm:  Ethan was born. Dr K placed him on my tummy and I couldn’t believe how small he was. My heart broke a little at this point. M cut E’s umbilical cord and E was carried to the warmer for checks and to be cleaned. M scooted over to take good look at him and took some videos for our archives. Dr K collected the cord blood and delivered the placenta. Whilst it was whole, the placenta was one-third the size of Faith’s placenta, and suddenly, it made sense as to why Ethan had been so small during gestation. I was relieved to have listened to Dr K to get him out earlier, and felt that I was to blame for E’s slower growth. Was it my diet or something I did? I’ll never know. As Dr K stitched me up, I could feel the pain from the needle and thread but I distracted myself by looking on as the midwife cleaned up and weighed E. After Dr K left, we took a family photo and I asked to have a go at latching Ethan. He suckled and licked but wasn’t able to latch properly. I made a conscious attempt not to be stressed out about this and decided to simply enjoy the moment we had with E in our arms.

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It took two hours for us to be done at the labour ward before getting transferred to the maternity ward. As I was wheeled out to the lobby, I was received by my sister, bro-in-law and my in-laws. They stayed on for a while and took photos with E before heading home. M stayed with me that evening and wasted no time in falling asleep. Even though I was exhausted, I couldn’t sleep. I knew I had to get some rest to prepare myself for the two-to-three-hourly feeds, but I was missing F terribly and wondered how she was doing at my parents’. I didn’t want to call my folks and disrupt her bedtime routine, and I was very thankful when Papa sent me a photo of Mama showering her. She looked delighted to be spending the night at my parents’ and I was immensely relieved to know that.

The rest of the night was filled with cuddles with a very sleepy E, latching attempts and checks on my BP and bleeding. I was also in a lot of pain, more so than when I delivered F. My insides felt like they have been thoroughly bruised but I resisted taking meds to relieve the pain as I was breastfeeding. Whenever E was brought to me that night, I took some videos and photos of him in the quiet whilst M snored away, and each time I held him, I couldn’t wait for morning to come. I didn’t know how F would take to E, and rehearsed their first meeting in my mind. Like how I would have E in the bassinet when F arrives, so she wouldn’t feel jealous. And how we would present E’s gift to her (a ginormous teddy bear). I pictured how she would cradle E in her arms and kiss him like the loving big sister I hope she would be, and prayed that we would cope and be happy as a family of four here on out.

Before I knew it, morning came and I was exhausted with nary a trace of sleep but I was so very elated when my little girl stepped into the ward ever so tentatively. I guess she couldn’t fully comprehend why I was away at a strange place. She squealed in delight when she saw me and hopped into my bed to give me a big hug. I took a deep whiff of her freshly washed hair, realising that I had missed her even more than I thought I would. Then, I explained to her that Didi (Mandarin for little brother), who was in my belly previously, finally arrived and that he had a gift for her. She was very shy and reserved when she received the teddy bear, as all eyes were on her, and she was very quiet when we placed E in her arms. I was biting my nails and watching her nervously, but all fears were displaced when I saw her leaning over to give E a kiss on his forehead. There and then, time stood still and I knew that God was at work, that God has been at work all our lives. We wouldn’t have made it to that point otherwise. The sight of my new baby boy in my firstborn’s arms is not something I would or could ever forget.

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Some days, being the human that I am, I wonder what it would have been like if my birth plan, well, went according to plan, or if I had made other decisions in the moments leading up to Ethan’s birth. Many days, I wonder if I had done anything wrong for the placenta to be so small, so much so that it affected E’s growth. But most days, those things don’t matter at all for I am most blessed to be the mother of these two very beautiful and healthy children. Suffice to say that my life is complete, and I am thankful that it is, no matter how we got here today. So there you go, the birth stories of my children. Not quite spectacular births right there, but so precious all the same.

Babies Hate Car Seats. Period.

We are here again, you know, at that dreaded car-seat-loathing phase. It lasted 18 months for F, and part of the reason why it took so long was probably because we didn’t head out as frequently as I do with the kids now.

I was a pretty noob driver then, even though I received my license in 2000. I didn’t dare to drive until I was forced to do school runs with F when she started pre-school at 19 months old. School runs were pretty well-oiled after months of ‘practice’ (more like on-the-job training, really); but E comes along with us now, so it’s two hours of commute (read: screamfest) everyday and man, am I stressed!

(As if there isn’t enough stress trying to get all three of us fed, bathed and out the door by 8.30am. And E has to take one nap before that. Pfffft.)

I have tried everything from playing different kinds of music, to blasting the air-conditioning, to white noise, to dangling toys from the backseat mirror I installed, to freeing his hands from mittens so he can self-soothe, to beat-boxing. YES, BEAT-BOXING. Nothing works. The minute I hoist E out of the sling, he knows it’s car seat time and screams at the top of his lungs as I secure him in the car seat. Then, it’s twenty-five minutes of a million decibels going at my ears as I try to pacify him with my voice and I struggle to hear what F is trying to tell me over the wails. I hastily park my car just so I can rescue him and pop him back into the sling for 5 minutes of comfort, and then it’s another twenty-five minutes of watching a positively livid eggplant scream whenever I get the opportunity. My poor mother’s heart.

Some things just don’t change and I am not sure how long it will take for E to get used to the car seat….

BETTER SOONER THAN LATER.

Hands up, those of you who face this much too often like I do. (BIG HUGS TO YOU)